Hamas agrees to joint Rafah control

Haniyeh's adviser says Hamas wants Egypt to supply fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip.

Mubarak 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Mubarak 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas is not opposed to joint Palestinian management of the Gaza crossings, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Thursday. Zahar said that the group would not object to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Presidential Guard controlling the Rafah crossing on condition that Israel had no say over procedures there. Zahar made the remarks to Al Jazeera after talks between Hamas leaders and Egyptian government officials in Cairo. He also said Hamas was prepared to consider the deployment of European monitors at the crossings if they are not subordinate to Israeli instructions. The Cairo talks were aimed at ending the crisis which erupted last week when Hamas supporters blew up large parts of the security barrier separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt, enabling hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flock freely into Egyptian territory. The Hamas delegation to Cairo, which is headed by Khaled Mashaal and Zahar, met Thursday with Egyptian General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to discuss ways of ending the crisis and reopening the Rafah border crossing. Sources close to Hamas said the Islamist movement's leaders stressed during the talks that they were strongly opposed to the return of Palestinian Authority security forces to the border crossing under the terms of a 2005 US-brokered agreement. The Hamas leaders, the sources added, also made it clear that they would not accept the presence of international monitors at the border crossing. "Hamas wants a central role in running the Rafah border crossing," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. "Without Hamas, there will be no agreement on controlling the border." The Egyptian authorities on Thursday stopped Palestinian vehicles from the Gaza Strip from crossing into Egypt as a first step toward resealing the border completely. The move came as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak declared that the Gaza Strip would never be part of Egypt. Mubarak was quoted by the Italian daily La Republica as saying that Israel's dream of "throwing the Strip" at the Egyptians was "only a dream." He said that Israel tried to "strangle" Gaza in an attempt to weaken Hamas, but achieved the opposite. The Egyptians have also issued an ultimatum to all Palestinians who entered its territory over the past week to return to the Gaza Strip by early next week or face detention and deportation. Egyptian policemen have raided dozens of houses in Al-Arish and other towns in search of Palestinians who were planning to stay in Egypt. The Egyptians are reported to have deployed some 25,000 policemen and soldiers in Sinai as part of a massive crackdown aimed at forcing all the Palestinians who entered Egypt through the breached border to return to the Gaza Strip. Hamas policemen deployed on the Palestinian side of the border also started preventing vehicles from crossing into Egypt. In one case, a Hamas policeman fired several shots into the air when a Palestinian driver ignored his orders to stop. Eyewitnesses said even donkey carts and motorcycles were barred from entering Egypt. However, pedestrians continued to pour across the border, although in smaller numbers than before. Also Thursday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's adviser announced that Hamas wanted Egypt to supply fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip to end Gazans' economic dependence on Israel. In an interview with the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, Ahmad Youssef said that several Arab sources had expressed willingness to help fund the supply, if Egypt agrees to the arrangement. He said the issue would be discussed during a meeting of Hamas leaders in Egypt. Youssef also stressed that the move would be the basis for Hamas "cutting off" from Israel and for Gaza's independence. Al Jazeera denied a Reuters report of an explosion heard from the Kerem Shalom Crossing area, on the Gaza-Egypt-Israel border. The station said the sound was a single bullet fired into the air by a Hamas police officer who was stopping a Palestinian trying to cross from Gaza into Egypt in his car.